Evangelical umbrella group to provide support during Sudan independence referendum
The world’s largest umbrella group of evangelicals pledged recently to lend assistance and support to southern Sudan to ensure that the country has a fair and peaceful referendum.
The World Evangelical Alliance outlined specific actions they will take to support southern Sudan’s Jan. 9, 2011 referendum. The referendum will determine if the south will choose independence, or if it opt to stay united with northern Sudan, Christian Today reported.
Observers are concerned that preparations for the referendum are behind schedule. No border has been demarcated to separate the north from the south, and no standards for voter eligibility have been drawn. The south blames the north for the delay, the Christian Post said.
Charlotte Scawen, acting head of Oxfam told the Christian Post, “The longer uncertainty drags on, the more likely violence could flare up. People here are waiting eagerly for the chance to decide their future, and expectations are extremely high.”
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, WEA secretary general announced that they would mobilize global prayer for a “free, fair and safe referendum,” and lobby among their respective governments to speed up preparations. WEA also launched a peace fund for the country, Christian Today said.
WEA also said its global network of churches and NGOs will be mobilized in support of holistic development, peace and good governance. They pledged to lobby at the highest levels of government and institutions in Sudan, and will send international observers to the referendum, the Christian Post reported.
WEA holds under its umbrella some 420 million evangelical Christians, 128 national alliances covering seven regions, and 104 associate evangelical organizations and global networks. Their reach extends to governments, other faith groups and media; and they possess consultative status at the United Nations, the Christian Post said.
At the WEA forum last week held in Juba, capital of Southern Sudan, Tunnicliffe lauded President Salva Kiir, who was in attendance, for meeting with the church and showing reconciliation by granting presidential pardon to some rebel leaders, Christian Today said.
For two decades Sudan was locked in a vicious civil war that left 1.5 million dead and over four million displaced. In 1983, Christians in the South took up arms when the government tried to impose Islamic law, the Christian Post said.
The civil war ended in 2005 with a Comprehensive Peace Agreement including a six-year transitional unified government during which time the south would have autonomy. The referendum next year is one of the conditions of this agreement, Christian Today said.
International observers are worried that a failed referendum may bring back civil war. Aiah Forday-Khabenje, General Secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa (AEA) called on the international community saying, “We are looking to governments to honor the commitment they made, to ensure that the referendum goes ahead on time, and that it does not result in further suffering for the people of Sudan” Christian Today reported.